Emet Prize Laureates

Late Prof. Leo Sacks

Wiezmann Institute of Science
2002 Laureates of Emet Prize

In Category: Life Sciences
In Field: Genetics


Late Prof. Leo Sacks

Jury Statement

“The EMET Prize is awarded to the Late Prof. Leo Sacks for his breakthrough in understanding the regulation of cell division and differentiation toward the formation of blood cells.”


Prof. Leo Sachs was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1924. In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, he immigrated to England, and at the end of World War II joined a core group of a Zionist youth movement that wished to found a kibbutz in Israel. In preparation for this he turned to agricultural studies, and completed his doctorate in genetics at Cambridge University. In 1952 he immigrated to Israel and joined the Weizmann Institute of Science, where he founded the Department of Genetics and was a pioneer in the study of genetics as a branch of biomedical sciences.

In his research, he investigated the manner in which stem cells in a culture develop into different types of cells. In 1963 he discovered the first cell culture system for cloning, growing and developing blood cells. Using this method, he first discovered the proteins that regulate clonal growth and differentiation. He also discovered that these proteins and certain other materials enable normal development in leukemic cells. These discoveries created a new field of research in life sciences. The findings of his studies also serve as a basis for innovative methods for treating blood diseases and cancer patients.

During his years of work at the Weizmann Institute he trained generations of students, who now fill senior positions in science and research in Israel and around the world. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, a member of the American Academy of Sciences and a member of the Royal Society of England. He is an Israel Prize and Rothschild Prize laureate, and was the first Israeli scientist to receive the Wolf Prize. His studies and achievements have won him additional important international prizes, including the title of Doctor of Medicine Honoris Causa from Lund University, Sweden.

He continues his work at the Weizmann Institute in the fields of basic science and clinical research in hematology, oncology and cell development.